By Blake Musser
August 1, 2017
Hot rods, rat rods, street rods, muscle cars, antiques, coupes, convertibles, sedans, trucks and station wagons will all be in downtown Freeport on Aug. 12 for this year’s Cruise Night. Diverse car collectors from as many as five states will gather to display their special vehicle and gaze at everyone else’s. It is an experience you won’t want to miss.
In the 1950s and ’60s, as cars became more accessible and powerful, young people became mobile and they gathered downtown and hung out. Later in the night, the traffic lights at each intersection changed to flash. When this happened, cars no longer needed to stop, just briefly pause instead, and the cruising of the circuit began.
Cars would make endless trips throughout downtown from Stephenson to Locust, Locust to Main, Main to Liberty and back to Stephenson. If you have seen the movie “American Graffiti,” you know what I’m talking about.
Almost 40 years ago, a group of local car enthusiasts came together and created a car club called Freeport Street Machines. They would gather downtown to display their cars and hang out. What they didn’t know is that their efforts would create the single biggest event in Freeport attracting as many as 10,000 people on one evening — all to celebrate the car.
Expect to do some walking when you come down on Aug. 12 to Cruise Night. Make sure you bring your camera and lawn chair for the cruise. Cars will be on display in several lots throughout the downtown area including the main lot on Douglas Street, the lots on Stephenson Street, and at the Public Library.
The night begins at 4 p.m. with the opening of the food court so bring your appetite, too. The muffler rapping contest starts at 6 p.m. and burn-out contest is at 7 p.m. These contests are a must-see (and hear)! The cruising also starts at 7 p.m., heading east on Douglas, south on Adams, west on Main and north on Van Buren back to Douglas.
A huge thank you to Brian Borger who has helped with the event for years and helped co-author this week’s column. Also, a thank you to the Freeport Downtown Development Foundation who leads a committee that organizes the event recruiting over 70 volunteers, obtaining sponsors, applying for permits and scheduling the evening events in the yearlong planning process.